D-Day Anniversary: Queen Elizabeth Visits France on Rare Foreign Trip
06/06/2014 AT 09:35 AM EDT
Prince William and Kate are also expected in Normandy to mark the anniversary, along with many world leaders and dignitaries, including President Obama.
On a rare foreign trip, the 88-year-old queen arrived in Paris on Thursday via the under-Channel train from England. She laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe before heading to a meeting with French president Francois Hollande.
She traveled Friday with her husband, Prince Phillip, to Normandy to commemorate the landings of British and other Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944. The invasion helped pave the way for victory against the Nazis in World War II.
As the sun rose Friday over a gusty Omaha Beach, flags flew at half-staff. A U.S. military band played Taps, while D-Day veterans from the 29th Infantry Division and serving soldiers stood at attention at exactly 6:30 a.m., the moment on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops first waded ashore.
"Twenty-nine, let's go!" they shouted, then downed shots of Calvados, Normandy apple brandy.
Hundreds of Normandy residents and other onlookers applauded the veterans, then began forming a human chain on the beach.
President Obama declared June 6 a national day of remembrance.
"Seventy years later, we pay tribute to the service members who secured a beachhead on an unforgiving shore – the patriots who, through their courage and sacrifice, changed the course of an entire century," he said on Friday. "Today, as we carry on the struggle for liberty and universal human rights, let us draw strength from a moment when free nations beat back the forces of oppression and gave new hope to the world."